Penny’s not actually a bad actress
Okay, hear me out, because this will take awhile.
Many are quick to judge Penny based on her performances in the Serial Apeist movies, but they’re hardly her best work. Penny repeatedly shows disinterest and even disgust in these films. She doesn’t care about them, and it shows in her performance. It’s not uncommon for actors to produce poorer performances in movies they are less than passionate about.
Let’s look instead at her performance in A Streetcar Named Desire. This play requires few characters, with only five female roles, two of which (a Mexican flower vendor and a black woman) would be unavailable to Penny. So, with only three parts open to her, it’s an accomplishment for her to have been cast at all (though this accomplishment is somewhat diminished by the fact that the play was cast from her acting class which is fairly limiting). And not only does she get cast, Penny pulls the lead role, and it’s not a role that’s only the female lead with a more prominent male lead, it’s the lead role. As the lead, Penny must memorize the whole play (as opposed to just her lines) because it’s on her to carry the performance. Without her, the play would fail. It’s a big responsibility. It’s a big deal. And there’s a great complexity to her character Blanche DuBois. It’s a challenging role, but it’s also a great one, and a great showcase for an actor. As Blanche DuBois, a multifaceted character, Penny would have to be a proper southern belle, a seductress, a woman desperate for a husband, a drunk, a woman consumed by grief, and a woman so irreparably damaged that she gives into delusions. Drunk people and the mentally ill are notably difficult to act, and Blanche goes through various stages of mental illness throughout the play, so Penny should be given recognition for that. Overall, the role of Blanche DuBois is a treasure trove for an actress what with the layers of the character, the challenges, and the notoriety of the role (A Streetcar Named Desire is an American Classic), so Penny playing the role well is a large feat, and it tends to go unappreciated by the fans and the characters outside of the episode. It’s significant that Sheldon appreciates her in the role, praising Penny as “remarkable.” As a huge consumer of media, Sheldon is exposed to a great deal of acting (though it’s mostly television and cinema, which is notably different than live theatre, but that’s more on the actor’s end than the spectator’s), and, for the most part, Sheldon is critical of the performances he sees. Taking into account Sheldon’s high standards, especially when he didn’t want to attend the play in the first place, this level of praise is exceptional. Sheldon never says anything remotely as positive about any of the other character’s careers. Sheldon’s claims about Penny’s acting are credible because, as mentioned before, Sheldon consumes a massive amount of media, and as shown in “The Loobenfeld Decay” and again in “The Lizard Spock Expansion” Sheldon can lie neither that readily, that comfortably, nor that convincingly. Additionally, Sheldon doesn’t allow his feelings cloud his judgement as easily as the other characters, nor does he give empty compliments to further an agenda.
After Penny’s performance as Blanche, many characters forget about Penny’s better performances in favor of her worse performances or her lack of work. Sheldon continues to see Penny’s worth as an actress even when no one else does, a great example of this being “The Occupation Recalibration.” Though the quotation, “We’re dreamers,” has picked up momentum in the fandom, it’s primarily analyzed for the us-versus-them position Sheldon establishes between himself & Penny and Leonard (which is a completely relevant and noteworthy observation worthy of analysis), but it’s generally ignored that in this quote Sheldon puts himself and Penny on an equal playing field. Sheldon has an inflated self-image, seeing other characters as inferior and pointing this inferiority out several times throughout the series, so raising Penny to his level, especially on something he values as much as careers, is extraordinarily meaningful. Moreover, Sheldon knows the statistics of Penny becoming a successful actress, and supports her anyway. This is important because Sheldon relies on science and statistics; faith has proven to be difficult for him. Yet he believes in Penny in a way he does no one else. If Penny were a bad actress, as it is suggested to us, Sheldon wouldn’t have lauded her in the first place. In fact, he would have wanted to directly inform her of her shortcomings as he wanted to do about her singing in “The Loobenfeld Decay,” and he definitely wouldn’t have compared her to himself, even indirectly, if he didn’t 100% believe in her as an actress.